Auburn soccer secured a three-game season sweep of the Georgia Bulldogs in a 1-0 win at the Auburn Soccer Complex on Saturday. The victory was Karen Hoppa’s 250th career win as the Auburn Tigers head coach.
"It's really hard to beat a team twice in the same season when you don't play that type of schedule, and so to do it three times, I can't remember a time in my career we've done that," Hoppa said. "The girls really rallied around the idea of getting a hat trick in a season, and I told them this is probably the only chance they'll ever have in their careers. So they were definitely fired up about that."
Georgia established control of the pitch with an attack on goal and an ensuing Auburn foul just a few minutes into the match. With the immediate Georgia attack stopped by Auburn’s active defenders, the Tigers saw their first offensive opportunity in the 10th minute of the game with midfielder Hailey Whittaker blowing by two defenders before getting the team’s first shot off on goal.
After saving the shot attempt, the Bulldogs began with multiple fast-break chances and three on-target shots in the first half. A Georgia corner kick looked promising for the Bulldogs, but an over-powered header sent the ball out of bounds.
After a slide tackle took Marissa Arias to the ground as she attempted a shot on goal in the 37th minute, Hoppa and the Auburn bench were given a yellow card after the head coach had a long conversation with one of the referees.
An Auburn mid-field free-kick set up Olivia Dedels with a clean shot in the goalies' box with under two minutes left in the half. Georgia goalkeeper Emory Wegener made the diving save to keep the score 0-0 heading into halftime.
Right out of the half, Auburn was more determined and active on the defensive side of the ball. Georgia challenged the Tigers with two quick back-to-back offensive opportunities in the 47th and 49th minute, but Auburn continued to hold Georgia scoreless.
Auburn goalkeeper Maddie Prohaska was given a yellow card in the 55th minute after running into a Georgia attacker fighting for the ball outside of the goalies’ box.
In the 62nd minute, Auburn broke the scoreless tie off of an Olivia Candelino upper 90 goal. The ball was crossed and assisted by freshman defender Madeline Moore.
"I was really advantageous of that space because that defender was really good," Candelino said. "I had a little opening, I saw it and I shot. It was just a really good team win."
Hoppa was impressed with both the goal and assist from her two freshmen.
"What a goal by Olivia Candelino. Holy Cow," Hoppa said. "That was a tremendous goal really created and produced by two freshmen."
Georgia’s Tori Penn had an open look at the goal to level the score in the 66th minute but watched the over-powered shot sail 10 feet over the goal's crossbar. Following two back-to-back Auburn corner kicks, Georgia’s Mollie Belisle created the Bulldogs' last scoring chance in the 85th minute with a cross to Morgan Smith, who was inside Auburn’s goalies’ box.
Prohaska caught the shot deflection off of the right goalpost and saved the game-tying goal only inches away from the goal line.
"It was a really gritty performance and great job by our defense and Maddie Prohaska," Hoppa said. "She was frustrated with the goal she gave up last weekend and she put in the work this week in practice. They got in behind our breaks more times than I would want as a coach, but Prohaska was ready for that task every single time."
Saturday's win was Auburn's fifth consecutive win over the Bulldogs dating back to September of 2016. After besting Georgia in a 1-0 win in October and winning an overtime game in the SEC Tournament, Auburn finished the series sweep with a 1-0 win on Saturday.
"Yeah, it feels awesome to finally get that rewarding win, because that's what we work towards is all three points," Candelino said. "When we fall short, it's just like we go back to practice, keep working and make sure we're ready for the weekend."
Auburn’s next matchup is on the road against Louisville on Saturday, with kickoff set for 4 p.m. CST.
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Larry is a senior studying journalism with a minor in sociology. He is from Enterprise, Alabama and is in his third year with The Auburn Plainsman.